Wall-E, 3-Disc Special Edition DVD
Starring the voices of Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin and Fred Willard
Directed by Andrew Stanton
"It's all about every space movie ever imagined and every robot movie ever imagined and then every sci-fi movie ever imagined. You have a big, big bowl of geek." The geeks have come.
Lindsey Collins, co-producer of "Wall-E"
Disney geeks, movie geeks, science fiction geeks, robot geeks, pop culture geeks--all crammed into the 3-Disc Special Edition DVD of "Wall-E" coming out Tuesday. In a rare home video release where the bonus features offer nearly as much as the movie (and the movie is among Pixar's absolute best), the Special Edition of "Wall-E" spotlights the passionate and talented people of Pixar at the top of their respective games. If you've even the slightest regard for the creative process, skip the limited (but still fascinating) offerings of the single-disc DVD and immerse yourself in the full-blown geekery of the 3-disc set (or the Blu-ray versions with even more geek stuff).
Tops among the bonus features is disc two's "The Pixar Story," Leslie Iwerks's 2007 documentary about the fledgling computer animation studio that had every right to fail, but didn't. Teetering on the brink of being too self-congratulatory for a bonus feature, "The Pixar Story" benefits from Iwerks's capable balancing of both the good and the bad about Pixar and Disney over the past 20+ years. Not only do you share in Pixar's amazing innovations and successes from "Tin Toy" to "Toy Story" to "The Incredibles", but you also get a strong dose of the struggles it took to get there: John Lasseter's impromptu firing by Disney in the mid-1980s, the financial troubles at Pixar that took a $10 million investment by Steve Jobs to shore up, the collapse of Disney 2D animation, and the very ugly near-divorce between Disney and Pixar at the end of the Eisner era. It's an important reminder that becoming an "overnight success" sometimes takes a lot of years to achieve and includes plenty of bumps in the road.
Disc two also has a half dozen "Behind the Scenes" featurettes, most notably "The Imperfect Lens" which shows how the Pixar artists gave "Wall-E" the look of a film shot with a real movie camera (complete with lens flare and shifts of focus) despite being created on a computer screen. Disney fans will also enjoy "Animation Sound Design: Building Worlds From The Sound Up" on disc one which not only spotlights the creative expertise of sound designer (and voice of Wall-E) Ben Burtt, but also pays homage to Disney's legendary sound designer Jimmy MacDonald.
And then there's the movie itself. A year ago, I lamented that from a narrative standpoint Pixar was losing its touch. Although visually stunning, both "Cars" and "Ratatouille" didn't engage me. I wondered if Pixar wasn't pushing animation to realistic extremes at the expense of quality storytelling.
"Wall-E" more than put my mind at ease.
At once a deceptively simple love story of two robots destined to break free of their programming and a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of excessive consumerism (from Disney--oh the irony!), "Wall-E" charms and delights with a heart and warmth not seen in a Pixar film since "Finding Nemo." Credit Andrew Stanton, who directed both films, with finding the perfect balance of humor, satire and pathos as we watch the dutiful wastebot Wall-E soldiering on after 700 years of compacting Earth's trash only to fall cam over treads for Eve, the sleek robot sent to Earth to discover the treasure Wall-E unknowingly holds and, in the process, save humanity.
Don't miss Stanton's entertaining and insightful audio commentary where he explains why "Wall-E" isn't a "message" movie (Stanton trashed the Earth and sent humans on an interstellar cruise not to make a political statement but to simply move the story forward) and describes how he landed "Alien's" Sigourney Weaver as the voice of the starship's computer. It's a priceless moment every sci-fi geek will appreciate.
The geeks are here alright, and with the "Wall-E" DVD they bear plenty of gifts.